Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Right Mix in Making Music



There are a lot of work involved in making a band. Having skills with their respective musical instruments are a given. Creating a certain vibe within their original songs are a bit tough. Having to choose what genre to best represent your style is a bit harder. But having the perfect mix of music and content is the toughest. Its a rigorous task, but the most important.

The message you get from watching bands differ from genre to genre. Some are bent on entertaining the crowd, to dazzle. Some may even project their emotions, whether it be anger, rage, melancholy, happiness, or love, to the audience. Instilling their personal rapport on life through various experiences. But at the end of the day, after all that sparkle of showmanship, after almost two hours in the spotlight, what's left in your subconscious is their message to the world. A certain hook that makes a band, or more importantly, a song, create a lasting impression on the psyche.

That's what makes songwriting an arduous task. If your message is easily forgotten, that would defeat the purpose of your hard work. You would end up with nothing more than a riff laden babble stuck in the back of the audience's mind.

Different things works for various types of music. You can't say that there's a general formula in songwriting. The rules of harmonies and chord progressions doesn't necessarily apply to the content of your song. A gifted few makes it seem so easy, spouting it out almost instantanouesly. But for the normal lot, it would either make or break their plunge into the music scene. 

One lucky hook and they're in. But it would be hard to sustain once they're in. Labelling also gives undue pressure to the band to make more of the same. Trying to balance out the same formula that worked with the various styles the band wants to divulge or progress in.

There are also external influences to consider. Trends, fads and world events play a major role in deciding if the song is ripe and if the audience will take it.

The most easiest way is by direct disclosure of intent or story. Since almost all humans go through the same general experiences, by telling the story as it is, its easy for the audience to understand and remember. Add a catchy riff and the song will be remebered since the people could related to its theme and there's a tune they can easily sing along with. Like Yano's "Esem", or any earlier works by the Eraserheads.

A more adventurous approach is by projecting mental images in the listener's mind to convey the story or emotion of the song. Its a little more work involved since you would need words that instill images that are applicable to the theme you want to convey. Some fine examples are "Darkness Fell" and "Arise" by Wolfgang or Pearl Jam's "Betterman".

The harder way, which applies mostly to the heavier genres, is by allegories and associations. Words that express emotions more than the actual intent of the word. But you don't want to confuse the audience by using phrases that are "too deep" or derived from an insider's point of view. This kind of songwriting is also prone to misinterpretations which can lead to the deterioration of the original message. Some examples are various songs by Wolfgang, Coheed and Cambria, Backdraft and Type O Negative.

Whatever style or method you choose, the most important thing is the content. It's hard work to balance the "hook" with the "word" but it would show your skill and expertise as a songwriter.

(special thanks to Jamil Antolino, Dean Francisco and Paulo Rodriguez for their insight on the matter)

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